SESSION ROAD

Session Road, once a promontory filled with lush pine stands cleared to make way for man’s settlement now the city’s main boulevard. What’s left of the magnificent forest are a few surviving saplings sparsely populating Luneta Hill. Soon these will also be gone to make way for another shopping mall the city can be left without. A two way street much too narrow by western standard, now filled with smoke emitting vehicles going up and down the hill road to drop fares on jeepney stops located at each block of buildings.

This road is the city’s major thoroughfare where all the other roads in the city lead. Remnants of the past is seen from old residential units made of wooden structure painted white and green, now in a state of disrepair amongst reinforced concrete buildings at the post office loop.

This is what you see as one gets down from the bus at Governor Pack Road. Mindless of the crowd and the rumbling of jeepneys, fair weather would allow you to enjoy a leisurely walk down Session road. This is the central business district. This part of town has metamorphosed from being a dirt road with a few dots of wooden structures serving as commercial stores during the city’s infancy to a concrete paved 2-way road with permanent reinforced concrete buildings on both sides of the road.

I learned the value of commercial property anywhere along Session road is much like the properties in the Roppongi district in Japan where the Philippine Consulate is located. While the city continue to develop, much of the structures that were there years ago still exist albeit serving different functions.

As you look up at the top of Session road you will see SM’s Bangko de Oro to your right, the Pines hotel area, now an SM complex. At the post office loop is the Dept. of Transportation & Communications Bldg. adjacent to the old Post Office building. Behind the Post Office at its far right is the YMCA building. As you walk down, the next block at the right side of the road will be the Patria de Baguio Bldg. I still remember the 2nd floor housed Songs while the 1st Floor was an Inn and the Patria Restaurant where we used to guzzle bottles of San Miguel beer listening and joining in the boisterous singing of Ernie Galo, the Mullers and their friends. They sung songs like the Desert Song, Old Man River and many favorites you can lift from a Rogers and Hammerstein album. Ernie Orduna played the piano and we all sung to his accompaniment until closing time.

Opposite Patria de Baguio is the Manahan building. A lawyer friend and a classmate held office there. On the ground floor was Mario's restaurant. I used to bring my wife here to dine on special occasions. For me, it was the best formal dining facility in town outside of the main club of John Hay. I read the news that this building was razed.

As one goes further down you wouldn’t miss the National Life Building. This is a brick colored high-rise structure that housed City Bank on its ground floor and professional offices on the rest of the floors. Then, La Azotea with Shakey's Pizza at the ground floor and the fast food stalls at the second floor. It’s the place frequented by students and office workers during lunchtime with its variety in Filipino cuisine. We have gone to the food area in these building countless times since it was conveniently located and there was an open view of Session Road. I particularly enjoyed their native cakes and their dinuguan with puto.

The PAL Office building is adjacent to this building then following it is another Manahan Building where my kumadre had her insurance office. This is followed by Laperal Building with Sizzling Plate and Fil-Indian Store of the Punjabi family at the road level and then Session Theater. We still had that Greenwich Pizza Parlor beside the theatre.

At the opposite side adjacent to Patria is a vacant lot, which used to be D & S Fine Foods and Fairmont Hotel. But following this vacant lot is Puso Ng Baguio with Tom Sawyer’s Restaurant, the Swiss Baker, the Puso Ng Baguio Bank, some souvenir shops and PT&T at the road level. The upper level is occupied by Data Center, a computer school.

The stairwell going towards the Cathedral divides this block from the Rural Bank of Baguio, the Antipolo Building, Chicken House and then the building, which housed Allied Bank (the Bueno Bldg.) This is also the area were Tea House is located. At the opposite side of this block is the skyworld condominium, which was at that time undergoing demolition. From Assumption Road, the block following is the Lopez Building. The second floor of this building is Mandarin Restaurant, the upper floors are offices while at the Session Road level is still Cid's Educational Supply, Kokens Barber Shop, Maranan's trading, Tahanang Pilipino, Luisa’s Café, PCI Bank and PNB. Opposite this block is the Tan Building which houses Jollibee and Wilbur Tan's hotel and then 456, Dainty and McDonalds.

And then the last block after PNB is the block with Star Cafe, the hardware store of Ompong Tan's family and Mercury Drug. Opposite this is a vacant property being developed. This used to be the place where the other Indian shops were before Pines Theater. Then after the movie theater, is another branch of the Swiss Baker, and then DBP. Mother's restaurant is at the second floor of the building.

The block after Mercury drug is of course the People's Park formerly Malcolm Square. The shops fronting the Park were Sunshine Restaurant, Holsum Bakery, U Need then Plaza Theater and going towards Magsaysay is Tiong San Bazaar. At the other side, after DBP, the building under construction that time was the Prudential Bank Building. By now this must have been completed.

Should there be any buildings added to those already existing along Session Road, it will be in the area right after Baden Powell where Governor Pack connects to Session Road and where the Piltel Office is located. I remember there is still that vacant space where we used to cross going to Diego Silang Street. Of course the Skyworld must have already been remodeled and the block were Star Café used to be located seemed to have already been prepared for future development.

That in a nutshell is Session Road. It is the city’s main promenade. People walk up and down this street either leisurely window-shopping or briskly to go to offices or schools that branch out from this street. Residents of the City all go to this center for festive activities. Parades during Charter Day or Independence Day and the most recently added festivity the Panagbenga Flower Festival makes Session Road the center of these festivals. People from all over would line up the sidewalks or watch from offices in the buildings as the festivity moves along.

At the foot of Session Road is Malcolm Square, now the People’s Park the venue of political rallies and assemblies during election time. If one wishes to avoid the crowd while at this function, you can sit and watch from the restaurants alongside the park. Mido restaurant that is at the second floor would provide a clear view of the rally going on below. On ordinary days, people would sit on the benches provided to have their shoes shined, play chess or just watch people and vehicles go by.

I remember during high school when we used to hang around Pines Theater or Session Theater just to wait for friends. When there were two or three of us, we’ll walk up one side of Session road and down the other side. We’ll meet schoolmates along the way so the group becomes larger as we continue to walk. We split up for home when the 6 o’clock siren goes on to signal the Angelus. At the signal, all pedestrians as well as vehicles stop, mumble a short prayer and continue on their way as the sound of the siren fade. That was Session Road many years ago. As the years went by, changed occurred.

Now we know Dainty is no longer there just as Session Café ceased to exist many years ago. Mario’s Restaurant must now have changed location. I wonder where Art Bustamante and Edgie De Guia of Stronghold Insurance transferred. They were on the 2nd Floor of that building. Mother’s Restaurant must also have stopped operations. But in their places new establishments are put up just as people in Baguio come and go. People and businesses come and go but Session Road will still be there.

P.Q.B. June 12, 2003
matapat@yahoo.com


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